Cameron has re-opened Tory divisions over Europe by dropping a firm
promise to pull Conservative Euro-MPs out of a federalist alliance in
the European Parliament within a year of becoming leader… Mr Hague’s
spokesman said he was "not putting a timetable" on withdrawal, and that
it might not happen until after the European elections in 2009. A
spokesman for Mr Cameron said "good progress" was being made and an
announcement would be made in July, though it was unclear what this
would be about."
The different positions of the two spokesmen point to possible differences in the outlooks of Messrs Hague and Cameron with the Shadow Foreign Secretary’s office now most sceptical about leaving the EPP. Speaking on this morning’s Today programme Mr Hague said that he will have something to report on the EPP at the end of next month and that the commitment had not been abandoned in any way.
The Times reports that Daniel Hannan MEP "would personally pull out of the group if Mr Cameron reneged on his pledge". “I have every intention of keeping his word," Mr Hannan told The Times.
"Tensions within the Conservatives over Europe will escalate today when the party’s foreign affairs spokesman makes a landmark speech that in effect ignores the pledge by David Cameron, Tory leader, to withdraw from the main centre-right grouping in the European parliament."
Mr Hague will use the speech to distance himself from those Conservatives who would like to leave the EU. "Britain’s place is in the European Union," he will say, "a strong player in Europe, not at the margins". The speech focuses on the need for freer trade between Europe and North America:
"I have been surprised by the breadth of support across Europe for a transatlantic free trade area. It is a logical extension to the single market. If we think that removing barriers to trade within Europe is a good thing – removing the transatlantic barriers would be even better."
BBC reports that Mr Hague "will warn that Europe’s prosperity "depends on free trade", and that while globalisation creates understandable fears among member states, "protectionists are undermining the EU’s prime purpose"." The Guardian says that "Mr Hague is expected today to unveil plans to allow different levels of integration inside the expanded EU, incorporating potential members such as Turkey."
Related link: Neil O’Brien of Open Europe asks ‘Can Europe Ever Learn to Listen?‘